the holy & sacred formerly known as

In his essay “A Faith for the Free” Unitarian theologian James Luther Adams writes:

“To be sure, the word God is so heavily laden with unacceptable connotations that it is for many people scarcely usable without confusion… Indeed, the word God may in the following formulations be replaced by the phrase, “that which ultimately concerns humans,” or by the phrase, “that which we should place our confidence in.”

This quote reminds me of my AA sponsor, those many moons ago when I was diligently working the 12 steps. She told me I had to put my faith in a higher power to keep me sober. At the time the only God I knew was a God I experienced as patriarchal, mercurial, and abusive. I wasn’t convinced I could trust a God who would create me and then blame me for it.

“You don’t have to believe in God,” she said. “Believe in the group. Believe in your cat. Believe in that chair over there. Whatever it is, it just has to be more powerful than your addiction.”

James Luther Adams calls this “what is rightly of ultimate concern”. For a while in seminary I called it “Wingding”. If you are not familiar with Wingding, it is a font that has no letters. It is a language of symbols. (In a nod to Prince I would sometimes call God “the holy & sacred formerly known as…”) Can you call to mind your symbol? The holy & sacred formerly known as? The symbol that represents what is your ultimate concern?

I use the word God freely on this blog because at the end of the day Prince is still Prince, name or symbol, the music transcends. I feel the name God is the best shortcut word to what I am trying to discuss, what I am trying to experience, that which is my ultimate concern. These days my ultimate concern is embodied groundedness, loving community, and a sense of oneness that arises out of right relationship. These are some of the things that are most holy to me. This definition has changed over the years and I hope it will continue to grow and evolve, just as I continue to grow in my understanding of myself, my spiritual truth, and the spiritual truth of others. If God is going to work for me–keep me sober and free of delusion–it’s going to have to keep up.

What is most holy to you? What is rightly of ultimate concern? And how has this changed over the years? Maybe you are just starting to ask yourself these questions, just starting to release old notions of what is holy and sacred and claiming for yourself what this means for you. I want to encourage you to keep going. If the word “God” causes you some feelings of pain, I honor that experience. I welcome you on this blog, wherever you are at on your journey. We are on this journey together.

One Comment

  • Diane Hudnall

    It is so refreshing to witness your spiritual journey, having been on one many years ago. We never stop learning about the nature of the holy.

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